Friday, June 24, 2005

The Impact of the Early-Entries

Once again, this year saw a ridiculous amount of underclassmen and high school players leave early for the NBA. Many of the decisions were not such good ones, while others were very intelligent moves. No matter how smart each decision was, every one of the choices by the early-entries are going to have an impact on their former college team. Since several teams were hit with multiple early-entries, here is a team by team look at the impact that premature NBA departures are going to have:

Duke: Shavlik Randolph had an underachieving, injury-filled career and never really added anything to the program. Most of his minutes next season would have been taken by incoming freshman Josh McRoberts, so this loss won't hurt the Blue Devils very much. Duke will still be in the Top 5 throughout the season. Impact (Scale of 1-10): 4

Wake Forest: If Eric Williams had stayed in the draft, the Demon Deacons would have severe troubles next season. As it is, he went back to Wake Forest, but All-American Chris Paul left after his sophomore season. He was the most valuable player in college basketball last year, and will be missed tremendously. Justin Gray is going to have to move from the 2 to the point next season. If that transition goes well, Wake will be a tough team to beat. Impact: 9

Maryland: John Gilchrist was the Terrapins' best player last season, but was also selfish at times. His relationship with Gary Williams could have had something to do with his decision to leave early. He never got along with Williams. His production (top 3 on the team in scoring, rebounding, and assists) might be somewhat difficult to replace, but his attitude won't be missed. If they can find someone to run the team, Maryland should return to the NCAA Tournament. Impact: 7

North Carolina: The Tar Heels, by far, are the biggest losers in the early-entry portion of the season. Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton, Sean May, and Marvin Williams all could go in the Top 20 in the draft. If they had stayed in college, UNC would be the favorites to win back-to-back national titles. Including three seniors that exhausted their eligibility, UNC is losing their top seven scorers from a year ago. The very good freshman class coming in is going to have to make a huge difference if the Tar Heels want to contend for an NCAA berth. Impact: Off the scale

Georgia Tech: It would have been hard enough for the Yellow Jackets next season with five seniors leaving, but after Jarrett Jack left his name in the early-entry pool, Georgia Tech is in shambles. Jack was one of the best point guards in the county last season, and his strength usually overwhelmed opponents. The team's leader in scoring and assists is going to be sorely missed. Jack's replacement, Zam Frederick, and the rest of the returnees are going to have a lot of work to do if they want to contend in the ACC. Impact: 8

Florida State: The Seminoles did not live up to their expectations of a year ago, but they have some solid players coming back next season. However, Von Wafer, the team's lone double digit scorer, decided to leave his name in the draft. Even though, on paper, it seems like a tough move to swallow for FSU, Wafer did not produce at all down the stretch. He had a total of 15 points in the final five games. What NBA team could pass that up? He won't be missed too much. Impact: 5

St. Joseph's: Overlooked throughout his career, Dwayne Jones was one of the most productive centers in college last season, averaging a double double and 3 blocks per game. His offensive game wasn't dominant, but his presence in the middle was very comforting for St. Joe's fans. He, along with senior shooter Pat Carroll, are going to be missed for the Hawks. Someone is going to have to step up and replace them. Impact: 8

Connecticut: Charlie Villanueva had a reputation for being lazy and lethargic throughout his collegiate career. However, he had a nice inside-outside game and was a go-to-guy for the Huskies. He was expected to leave before his junior season from the moment he stepped on campus. His replacement was supposed to be Andrew Bynum, who also put his name into the NBA Draft. Bynum was going to come off the bench and be a solid back-up to Josh Boone next season. The Huskies still will be a Final Four contender without these two, though. Impact: 8

Pittsburgh: Since I first saw Chris Taft play, I had a feeling that he was overrated. NBA GMs are starting to see the same thing. He was very lazy and did not play to his potential in college. Taft showed flashes throughout his career at Pitt, but did not produce every night like he should have. Aaron Gray stole some minutes from him late in the season, and will have to step in next season. The Pitt guards are going to carry the Panthers next season, possibly to an NCAA berth. Impact: 6

Seton Hall: JR Morris put his name in the NBA Draft. I really don't know what to say about that. Unless NBA types are attracted to a sixth man from a team that won 4 games in the Big East, I have no idea why Morris went early. Maybe Seton Hall's starting lineup was tougher to crack than a professional team's will be. We'll have to see. Seton Hall won't miss him that much because of the fact that he didn't play the last month of the season. Impact: 3

Illinois: Deron Williams developed into possibly the best player in college basketball last season. His defense, passing, and overall game outshined everyone else, especially in the NCAA Tournament. If he had returned, the Fighting Illini would be a Top 10-15 team. Without him, they drop down several notches. He could carry Illinois when needed. They will miss him severely. Dee Brown and James Augustine are going to have to put Illinois on their shoulders and try to get a NCAA berth. Impact: 9

Indiana: Bracey Wright did not have an overwhelming college career, and it would have benefited him greatly to stay with the Hoosiers for another season. He also had some injury problems late in the year. Indiana could be a surprise next season, even without Wright. With him, they could have been a Top 20 pick. The offense will now revolve around athletic DJ White, an emerging star. Impact: 7

Texas: CJ Miles never stepped a foot on campus. Therefore, the impact of his decision will not be that great. He still might go to Texas if he is unhappy with his draft position. Miles could have given the Longhorns a solid scoring guard, forming a very good backcourt with Daniel Gibson. However, Texas will be just fine, with Brad Buckman and LaMarcus Aldridge dominating in the paint, and Gibson scoring from the perimeter. Impact: 3

Missouri: Linas Klieza was the Tigers' leading scorer and rebounder last season, and was their go-to-guy when they needed a basket. Without him, Missouri is going to be a very young team that really has no identity on offense. One or more of the role players from a year ago are going to have to develop into consistent scorers for the Tigers to have a chance at an NIT berth. Impact: 8

Texas A&M: The player behind the Aggies turnaround last season was Antoine Wright, one of the best players in the Big 12. He could get to the basket on anyone, and developed a shot as the season went on. A&M could have been an NCAA Tournament team with Wright; without him, they are probably headed for a return trip to the NIT. Joseph Jones and Acie Law IV are a good duo, but won't be enough. This is a huge loss for Texas A&M. Impact: 9

Oklahoma State: Similarly to Texas and CJ Miles, Gerald Green won't ever play a minute for the Cowboys. Unlike Miles, though, this is a pretty big loss for OK State. They lose seven of their top eight scorers, and return only JamesOn Curry from their rotation. The Tracy McGrady-like Green would have formed a potent scoring duo with Curry. Now, the Cowboys are likely headed for the bottom half of the Big 12. Impact: 7

Washington: After the Huskies dream season of a year ago, big things were expected again this upcoming year. Even though they already had lost starters Tre Simmons and Wil Conroy, they had players ready to step in and contribute. In addition, they had Nate Robinson, the most exciting player in college basketball. Undersized but tremendously athletic, Robinson left UW early for the NBA. That is a tough loss to swallow. Moreover, Martell Webster skipped college and went straight to the NBA from college. He could have been the national Freshman of the Year had he gone to Washington. Impact: 10

Arizona State: Ike Diogu has been the entire Sun Devils team that past couple of years. Without him, ASU has no one to generate offense consistently. Basically, they went from a potential NCAA Tournament team to a team that is going to have to play their hearts out to get to the NIT. Diogu meant that much to them. One can't blame him for going pro, though-- the Elton Brand-clone is going to be a double double machine for years to come. Impact: 10

Arkansas: Olu Famutimi passed up a shot to be on a potential Top 25 team to most likely go undrafted. He was the fourth leading scorer on the Razorbacks, and did not do anything overly special throughout the course of the season. He is very athletic but can't shoot very well. Arkansas returns several guys that can replace Famutimi's production. Impact: 4

LSU: Brandon Bass used up his one shot to test the draft waters when he declared for the NBA Draft after his freshman year, but then decided to return to the Tigers. He was the best player in the SEC last season, but I think he should have stayed another season. LSU could have been a Top 10 team with Bass. Without him, incoming freshman Tasmin Mitchell is going to have to step up. Impact: 8

Alabama: Kennedy Winston is a very good shooter for his size, and could carry the Crimson Tide when needed. 'Bama could have been a Top 10 team had Winston returned. Now, some of the players that did not play meaningful minutes last season are going to have to step in and help ease the loss of Winston. Similar to the aforementioned SEC players, I think Winston would have been better off with another year at Alabama. Impact: 8

Florida: Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh were the faces of Florida basketball over the last couple of years-- selfish players that love to shoot. Both got better with their lack of team play in their junior seasons, though. Roberson is an undersized scorer, while Walsh is a potentially very solid shooter off the bench in the future. The 2005-2006 Gators are now going to have only one senior on the team, with up to 4 sophomores in the starting lineup. They are going to need to find some scorers if they want to compete in the SEC. Impact: 9

Kentucky: Both of the players that left Kentucky to go to the NBA Draft made bad decisions. Kalenna Azubuike made the choice to go to the NBA because of his dad's legal debt. As far as NBA potential, however, he has the body for the NBA, but nothing else. He can't shoot well, is not very good at taking his man off the dribble, and does not play overly impressive defense. Randolph Morris, on the other hand, is nowhere near ready for the NBA. He has the potential to be a serviceable big man down the line, but as of now, he is not going to produce. He averaged 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds last season. Those aren't very good numbers for someone who expects to get drafted. These two would have been part of a Final Four favorite if they had stayed. Impact: 8

Georgia: Louis Williams was expected to step right in and produce for the Bulldogs next season. Instead, this undersized scorer is going to be sitting on the bench or playing in the NBDL. Georgia could have been a sleeper next season, as they would have had no seniors that would be seeing meaningful minutes. Even though they only won 2 SEC games, they were competitive. Williams would have given them another point producer on the perimeter. Impact: 5

Mississippi State: Every season, it seems that the Bulldogs lose people to the NBA. This year it was incoming freshman Monta Ellis. I'm not so sure he made the right decision by going pro, given that he is not very athletic and would have trouble running the point. Miss. St. will be losing their top six players from a year ago, and will begin rebuilding. Ellis would have given them a solid scorer in the backcourt. Overall, though, losing six players is going to have more of an impact than losing someone who never stepped on campus. Impact: 5

Louisville: Going into the season, Louisville knew that Francisco Garcia would not be back for his senior season because of financial problems, etc. He is a long, lanky shooter that reminds me of Tayshaun Prince. He was one of the best all-around players in college basketball last season, and demonstrated that in the NCAA Tournament. Amir Johnson was basically forced to enter the Draft because he did not have the grades to get into Louisville. You can't really consider that a loss if he wouldn't have been able to play anyway. Louisville will still be a contender for an NCAA bid even without Garcia, and three seniors. Impact: 9

Utah: Obviously, when you lose the probable #1 pick, it is going to have an impact. The offense revolved around Andrew Bogut the entire season, and most of his two-year career. It obviously was a good decision to go pro for him. Unfortunately for Utah, they are going to fall back several spots in the Mountain West conference without Bogut and two other starters. I doubt that they are going to find a replacement for Bogut. He could have carried them to an automatic bid. Impact: 10

UL-Lafayette: Tiras Wade is a very good scorer and was the best player in the Sun Belt Conference. However, that doesn't mean that he should have gone to the NBA. He has the potential to be a serviceable player--in the NBDL, as he has decent size and athletic ability for a guard. He probably should have stayed another year. I hardly heard anything about Wade as the NBA Draft approached. Louisiana-Lafayette's chances at a repeat trip to the NCAA's take a huge hit though. Impact: 8

St. Francis (PA.): Similar to UL-Lafayette and Wade, I heard nothing at all about Darshan Luckey as the NBA Draft approached. He averaged more than 21 points per game, but probably won't get any looks from NBA teams. St. Francis will miss him, though, as would most teams that lose almost one-third of their scoring production. Impact: 8

Pepperdine: Alex Acker can do most things pretty well, but isn't extremely impressive in any one area. He was the team's second leading scorer, rebounder, and assist man--fairly decent for a 6-5 shooting guard. Pepperdine lost too much other than Acker to have been considered a threat for the WCC crown, but his loss is going to hurt. Impact: 6

Chicago State: Deji Akindele hasn't lived up to his potential so far in his career, but the fact that he is 7-1 and has talent has NBA scouts interested. He didn't dominate the Mid-Continent Conference by any stretch of the imagination, though. For that reason, I don't think he is going to be drafted and should have came back to Chicago State for another season. He would have been the go-to-guy for the Cougars. Impact: 6